Friday, December 28, 2012

Dancer with fire in her belly

Albeit UAE’s December cold, Natalia Zakrevska was sweating profusely after nearly 20 minutes of twisting and swirling as she danced her way to the heart of an appreciative audience at a Dubai desert camp.
Several Middle Eastern countries claim belly dance as their own and its popularity is widespread around the world. Many desert safaris and dune driving shows for tourists in Dubai also include belly dancing along with music and food.
Natalia, who hails from Ukraine, says her passion for different kinds of Middle Eastern Music and her inherent love for dance brought her to the UAE. She has been a belly dancer in the UAE for the past three years, though she has been living here for around six years. “I think the UAE is the best place for artistes like me as we find appreciation, respect and security here.”
Among the audience are men, women and children of different ages. “As an artiste I exhibit positive energy and expect the same from the audience. When I perform, I get immersed in the art and this helps me bond and connect with people of all ages. There is so much of bliss. In fact, I get tremendous happiness from the cheerful response of the spectators,” she says.
The artiste, in her twenties, used a stick while swaying to the rhythms of loud music and balanced a sword on the curves of her belly, drawing repeated applause.
Natalia says that she wants to start a dance school and train youngsters. “I am skilled in other dance forms too, including Salsa. The UAE has so many varied nationalities. There is absolute unity in diversity here. Hence this is the right place to teach diverse dance forms.”
Will she go to Hollywood or Bollywood if given a chance? “Why not?” she shoots back. “I will grab any such opportunity. I should say I like Bollywood."
Talk about her future plans and Natalia laughs out loud saying, “I want to get married, have kids and settle down.”

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When I blinked like a fused robot

Robots fascinate me.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Shah Rukh Khan, Rajnikant…many top stars have acted in films depicting robots.
Decades ago, talking about machines when there was no television or computer at home, a Tamil film song went on like, “If we press a button, Idlis (south Indian dish) and coffee should reach us in a plate.” (Button-ai thatti vitaa rendu thattile idliyum kaappi namma pakkaththile vandhidanam).
Now, robots perform amazing deeds. NYT reported that the most valuable part of each computer, a motherboard loaded with microprocessors and memory, is largely made with robots.
Robots are used for critical surgeries. They don the roles of a personal assistant, traffic assistant, gift wrapper, receptionist or a worker of an automotive manufacturing line.  There are home robots that make salads and clean dishes.
When I mentioned all this to my colleague, she looked puzzled for a minute and then asked, “All’s well. But don’t you think we are now becoming robots and they are taking our role?”
I blinked like a fused robot.
Talking about robots, I remember a joke:
A robot displayed at a mall hugged those who told the truth, but slapped anyone who uttered a lie.
The first visitor shook its hand and said, “You are cute.” The robot hugged the guy.
The second person said, “My wife loves me the most.” He got a blow.
Then came Banta Singh. “I think…” he started.  Phattt… came the slap.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blogs vs print media
The job of journalists is to reflect social events as they are and when they happen. If the society has scars in its face, the journalists reflect the same, like a mirror does. Do we blame the mirror for reflecting scars in our face?
Some bloggers do not seem to get this message and there has been a series of comments against journalists in the social media. It is portrayed as if journalists “easily fall prey to monetary temptations,” and “do not stick to professional ethics.”
The bloggers are entitled to their views, but generalisation is in poor taste. Every profession evolves and so does journalism. 
I started my career in the mid-80s and there were no computers in The Times of India, Mumbai then. It was the Hot Metal (Letter Press) printing days. 
When the computer system was introduced later, journalists were worried about their future. Dozens of proofreaders and paste-up artists lost their jobs.
The print media was shifting from hard copy to computer editing. Pens, pencils, erasers and scales were silently being discarded. Sub-editors, who were used to sleeping in the office after the edition amid the din of teleprinter machines and antiquated fans making funny noises, were slowly getting used to quiet surroundings. 
Fortunately, we copy editors picked up technology fast. Now, journalists and computers are inseparable. 
I do cry for my adorable Remington typewriter. I sold it to a reporter friend in Navi Mumbai. I could not gift it to her as those were challenging days and pay for journalists under Indian government wage board structure was pathetic.
When I joined as a copy editor, for the entire first month I was given only “Brief” reports to edit. “Briefs” were used to fill gaps between two big articles. And they were never more than one or two paras. Imagine editing two-para stories for weeks. The bosses were so intelligent; they would find a mistake even in those and rebuke me for being careless.
And we had funny names for headline sizes for page layout purposes like “Single,” “Heavy Top” and “Bottom Spread.” That was an extension of British journalism. In fact, the page opposite editorial was called BOR. I never understood that for many weeks until a senior told me it meant “Back of Reuters.” Frankly, I still do not understand what that meant. 
Most of the bloggers who throw mud on journalists may not have come across young men and women journalists working day and night who dedicated themselves as devoted members of the Fourth Estate. 
Just this week, a reporter friend from a Mumbai daily mentioned to me how he wrote about a couple in distress.
After losing one daughter to disease and a second child to a miscarriage from the shock of the death, the couple were struggling to put together funds needed to save their third child, who needed a bone marrow transplant.
The report helped raise Rs1.3 million in funds from 200 donors in various countries including the UAE, Australia, Norway, Canada, USA and Oman.
This is not to argue that there are no rotten apples in this profession. Just like in most other fields, there have been examples in history of unethical mediapersons too. But there is a need to nurture, protect and even cajole mediamen who do their job sincerely and courageously as their role in society is as vital as breathing for human beings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

WFP lauds UAE, ramps up aid projects in Arab countries

DUBAI: World Food Programme (WFP) officials on Sunday heaped praise on UAE efforts to help victims, while expressing worry about the humanitarian situation in Syria, Yemen and occupied Palestinian territories at a special media briefing held in Dubai.
The briefing follows a Global Management Meeting held by the WFP that brought together senior managers from 90 offices worldwide to Dubai this week. It is the first time in the Middle East that such a meeting has been held.
As the WFP ramps up its food assistance projects in Arab countries like Syria and Yemen, its Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, visited the agency's facilities at Dubai's International Humanitarian City (IHC), the largest humanitarian logistics hub worldwide. 
With more than 40,000 sqm of space offered by IHC, WFP is the largest user of the Dubai-based logistics centre for UN agencies, the Red Crescent and Red Cross and other major NGOs that provide aid in both emergencies and for development to help the poor in less developed countries.  
To a specific question from The Gulf Today, a top IHC official explained that the total WFP shipment value from Dubai depot from 2011 until date was Dhs32.5 million. This included Somalia (Dhs13 million, Yemen (Dhs3.5 million), Syria (Dhs4.5 million) and Pakistan (Dhs11.5 million). 
Muhannad Hadi, WFP Country Director & Representative in Syria, noted that the WFP was reaching about 1.5 million people monthly in Syria with food assistance. “However, the escalation of violence is making it more difficult to reach the country's hardest-hit areas.”
As thousands of more Syrians pour into neighbouring countries, WFP is responding to cover the food needs of refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey with food distribution and innovative food vouchers. The food assistance reached over 1.4 million Syrians in the country's 14 Governorates during the month of October.
Pablo Recalde, WFP Country Director & Representative in the occupied Palestinian territories, said  the WFP requires $2 million a month to maintain its vital support to vulnerable Palestinians.
Almost 1.7 million people live in the Gaza Strip, a highly dense urban area subject to a blockade that has been imposed since 2006. Food insecurity reportedly affects 44 per cent of households in the Gaza Strip.
“Gazans have been living under a blockade which virtually closes Gaza off to free trade, economic activity, jobs and makes them almost completely dependent on foreign assistance. By 2020, the population of Gaza will increase by half a million. That means in eight years Gaza will need 400 additional schools, 800 additional hospital beds,” he noted.
Lubna Alaman, WFP Country Director & Representative in Yemen, pointed out that the WFP scaled up its food assistance this year to reach 5.5 million people.
Child malnutrition rates in Yemen are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen's children under 5 years - 2 million children - stunted and one million acutely malnourished.
According to WFP officials, Yemen is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis with more than 10 million people - almost half the country's population - either hungry or on the edge of hunger.
WFP first started operating in Dubai in 2005 as a result of a $10 million grant from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and other private Dubai corporate sources.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Glowing example of ‘tube light’

“Tube light” is a person who takes time to understand a joke.
I am a shining example of a “tube light.”
Just the other day, I posted a rain photo on FB mentioning, “It rained joy in Sharjah.” Good friend PP commented, “Thought joy was in Oman.” It took minutes for me realise she was mentioning about my friend Joy, who works in Oman.
At my earlier office, the editor used to throw the newspaper and say, “What’s this! Full of errors.” I often imitated him. One day, while doing so, a colleague waved restlessly and said, “Bossss, cool.” I did not get the hint. Suddenly, I heard a voice, “The rest are OK. But I did not wink like that.” It was my boss standing behind.
I have another “tube light” friend.
Once he reached home and yelled at his wife, “You cook as bad as your mom.” His wife signalled “Shhh..” However, he continued, “I should have gifted an expensive cookery book to her.”
“You can do it now,” came a loud voice from the next room.
He did not know that his MIL had arrived on a visit.